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dc.contributor.authorTaylor, Ashley Raeen
dc.date.accessioned2020-02-06T09:01:57Z
dc.date.available2020-02-06T09:01:57Z
dc.date.issued2020-02-05
dc.identifier.othervt_gsexam:23677en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/10919/96732
dc.description.abstractIn the United States context, there is a particularly prevalent dialogue about the transformative power of an engineering degree for underserved students. Long positioned as a mechanism for moving up the social ladder, engineering education is often discussed as a mechanism for upward mobility, promising underserved students the opportunity to climb. However, a critical examination of who enrolls and persists in engineering degree programs suggests not everyone can equitably leverage the transformative power of an engineering degree, with persistent inequities for underserved students. Though literature highlights systemic barriers faced by underserved engineering students, much less is known about how underserved students navigate barriers to pursue an engineering bachelor's degree. Accordingly, the purpose of my study was to explore how students from underserved backgrounds navigate their educational trajectories, focusing on the interplay between structures and agency. Using a Bourdieusian lens, my study was guided by the overarching research question: In their narratives, how do students from underserved backgrounds describe navigating their educational trajectories towards a bachelor's engineering degree? I used a single case study methodology with embedded units of analysis to explore this research question. My primary data sources included narrative interviews with 32 underserved engineering students and geospatial community-level data extrapolated from students' home zip codes. My results indicate that underserved engineering students describe a variety of strategies to enact agency by planning, optimizing, and, at times, redirecting their educational trajectories. This study also highlights the influence of family, community, economic, and political environments on the educational journeys of underserved engineering students, as students described navigating and adapting to these various social environments. Students also describe their environments as dynamic, with trajectories changing based on critical incidents such as a parent illness or loss of work. Lastly, students' narratives highlight a diverse range of reasons for pursuing engineering, which often extended beyond private goods approaches to engineering education. My results present implications for engineering education, the most notable of which is that underserved students are not a monolithic group and represent a diverse range of lived experiences. My results also highlight agency as a collective endeavor, challenging popular notions that agency is operationalized at the level of a single individual. Lastly, students' lived experiences with material hardship highlight the dynamic and multidimensional nature of economic disadvantage. Such insights compel engineering educators to reexamine how we conceptualize and measure economic disadvantage in higher education. Ultimately, this research highlights opportunities to increase access and equity in engineering education for underserved students.en
dc.format.mediumETDen
dc.publisherVirginia Techen
dc.rightsThis item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. Some uses of this item may be deemed fair and permitted by law even without permission from the rights holder(s), or the rights holder(s) may have licensed the work for use under certain conditions. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights holder(s).en
dc.subjectengineering educationen
dc.subjectunderserveden
dc.subjectlow incomeen
dc.subjectfirst generationen
dc.subjectaccessen
dc.subjectequityen
dc.titleThe Change: A Narrative-Informed Case Study Exploring the Tension between Structures and Agency in the Educational Trajectories of Engineering Students from Underserved Backgroundsen
dc.typeDissertationen
dc.contributor.departmentEngineering Educationen
dc.description.degreeDoctor of Philosophyen
thesis.degree.nameDoctor of Philosophyen
thesis.degree.leveldoctoralen
thesis.degree.grantorVirginia Polytechnic Institute and State Universityen
thesis.degree.disciplineEngineering Educationen
dc.contributor.committeechairLee, Walter Curtisen
dc.contributor.committeememberHassouna, Khaled M.en
dc.contributor.committeememberWatford, Bevlee A.en
dc.contributor.committeememberKnight, David B.en
dc.contributor.committeememberCase, Jennifer Margareten
dc.description.abstractgeneralIn the United States, engineering is often viewed as a transformative career for underserved students. Long positioned as a mechanism for moving up the social ladder, engineering education is positioned to underserved students as an opportunity to climb. However, inequities in engineering education persist, with low income and first generation students underrepresented in engineering. The purpose of my study was to explore how students from underserved backgrounds navigate their educational trajectories, focusing on the interplay between societal forces (i.e., structures) and individual decision-making (i.e., agency). My study was guided by the overarching research question: In their narratives, how do students from underserved backgrounds describe navigating their educational trajectories towards a bachelor's engineering degree? My primary data sources included narrative interviews with 32 underserved engineering students and geospatial community-level data. My results indicate that underserved engineering students describe a variety of strategies to plan, optimize, and, at times, redirect their educational trajectories. This study highlights the influence of family, community, economic, and political environments on the educational journeys of underserved engineering students. Additionally, students describe their environments as dynamic, with trajectories changing based on critical incidents such as a parent illness or loss of work. Lastly, students' narratives highlight a diverse range of reasons for pursuing engineering, which often extended beyond private goods approaches to engineering education. My results highlight agency as a collective family endeavor, challenging popular notions that agency is operationalized at the level of a single individual. Lastly, students' lived experiences with material hardship highlight the dynamic and multidimensional nature of economic disadvantage. Such insights compel engineering educators to reexamine how we conceptualize and measure economic disadvantage in higher education. Ultimately, this research highlights opportunities to increase access and equity in engineering education for underserved students.en


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